CMS and Its Benefits
A content management system (CMS) is critical to the success of almost every website and intranet, and yet many organisations are not familiar with this technology.
So, while we have written many articles on a range of specific CMS issues and strategies, we now take a step back to answer the question: what is a content management system?
In this article we will focus on web content management, and will only touch upon broader content issues at the end of the document.
The business problem
You have a website, or intranet. It has grown organically over time, and while it is very useful, it is far from perfect.
Much of the content is out-of-date or inaccurate, it’s hard to find things, updating the site is complex, and the appearance is becoming dated.
Worse yet, you’ve lost track of all the pages on the site, and by having all the changes made by your skilled webmaster, the updates are piling up in their in-tray.
What was on the site last week, or last year? You couldn’t say. In the back of your mind, you know that this could leave you in a difficult position if a customer sues, but there is little that you can do.
If this sounds grim, you are not alone. In fact, it’s the natural by-product of maintaining a site using manual tools such as Dreamweaver or Frontpage.
Thankfully, these problems are what a content management system is specifically designed to solve.
CMS: A working definition
A content management system (CMS) supports the creation, management, distribution, publishing, and discovery of corporate information.
It covers the complete lifecycle of the pages on your site, from providing simple tools to create the content, through to publishing, and finally to archiving.
It also provides the ability to manage the structure of the site, the appearance of the published pages, and the navigation provided to the users.
Note that we are focusing on the most common use of a CMS: to manage web content. In some circles, these systems are therefore called web management systems (WMS).
Content management systems can be much broader than this, but we won’t touch upon these aspects until later.
There are a wide range of business benefits that can be obtained by implementing a CMS, including:
- streamlined authoring process
- faster turnaround time for new pages and changes
- greater consistency
- improved site navigation
- increased site flexibility
- support for decentralised authoring
- increased security
- reduced duplication of information
- greater capacity for growth
- reduced site maintenance costs
Beyond these, the greatest benefit the CMS can provide is to support your business goals and strategies.
For example, the CMS can help to improve sales, increase user satisfaction, or assist in communicating with the public.
Common advantages of a CMS:
- Decentralized maintenance.
Based on a common web browser. Editing anywhere, anytime removes bottlenecks.
- Designed with non-technical content authors in mind.
People with average knowledge of word processing can create the content directly. No HTML knowledge needed.
- Configurable access restrictions.
Users are assigned roles and permissions that prevent them from editing content which they are not authorized to change.
- Consistency of design is preserved.
Because content is stored separate from design, the content from all authors is presented with the same, consistent design.
- Navigation is automatically generated and adjusted.
Menus are typically generated automatically based on the database content and links will not point to non-existing pages.
- Content is stored in a database.
Central storage means that content can be reused in many places on the website and formatted for any device (web browser, mobile phone/WAP, PDA, print).
- Dynamic content.
Extensions like forums, polls, shopping applications, searching, news management are typically modules.
Encourages faster updates, generates accountability for authored content (logs) and cooperation between authors.
- Content scheduling.
Content publication can often be time-controlled, hidden for later use or require user login with password.